£215 million to improve attainment

Schools and local authorities receive record funding.

Pupils living in Scotland’s most deprived communities will be among those to benefit from £215 million of targeted funding in 2021-22 to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.

The announcement meets the Government’s commitment to pay the first instalment of the expanded £1 billion Attainment Scotland Fund in the first 100 days of Parliament, and is the largest amount awarded for a single year.

The funding will be distributed through five different programmes, nine local councils with the highest concentrations of deprivation in Scotland, known as “Challenge Authorities”, will share £43 million of investment. A further £7 million from the Schools’ Programme will be shared between 73 additional schools with the highest concentration of pupils from areas of deprivation.

Headteachers will receive £147 million of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) which they will decide how best to invest to support disadvantaged pupils. This includes a top up payment of £20 million, recognising the new and additional challenges schools face as a result of the pandemic.

Local authority work to help improve the attainment of care experienced young people, including through mentoring programmes, will receive up to £12 million. A further £7 million is being invested in a number of a national programmes, including third-sector organisations, to support their targeted work to raise the attainment of young people.  

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Closing the poverty-related attainment gap and ensuring every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential remains central to this Government’s work. Our ambition is a long-term one and we know that the challenges presented by the pandemic mean our efforts to deliver equity in education are more vital than ever.  

“This first instalment of the expanded Attainment Scotland Fund, with record funding of more than £215 million, will allow headteachers, schools, councils and other partners to provide targeted help for some of our most disadvantaged pupils.

“We are providing investment across a number of diverse programmes which will benefit looked after children, support pupils in our most deprived areas and empower headteachers to invest their funding on initiatives that are right for the children in their schools.”


  • the Challenge Authority Programme provides funding to the nine local authorities in Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation (as defined by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).  The 'Challenge Authorities' (seven in 2015, rising to nine 2016-17) are Clackmannanshire, Dundee, East Ayrshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.
  • the Schools Programme provides targeted support to an additional 73 individual primary and secondary schools in Scotland out with the nine Challenge Authorities who have the highest concentrations of pupils living in SIMD 1 and 2.  
  • Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) was introduced in 2017-18 and provides over £127 million directly to 97% of schools in Scotland based on the number of P1-S3 pupils registered for free school meals, used as a proxy measure for socio-economic disadvantage. Underspends at school level are retained and carried forward to the next year. A one-year only £20 million PEF Premium has been added to schools’ PEF allocations.
  • the Care Experienced Children and Young People Funding was introduced in 2018-19 with funding allocated to all local authorities based on the number of looked after children they have in their care or schools aged between 5-15, but with the funding available to be invested to support all care experienced children and young people aged between 0-26. 
  • a number of National Programmes, including a number of third sector organisations, have been supported for targeted work to raise attainment and improve equity.

Scottish Attainment Challenge 2021/22

21-22 allocations

Challenge Authorities*


Schools Programme*






National programmes






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